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Column: The Ideological Echo Chamber

US Capitol Building
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Unsurprisingly, given all the Washington DC related news last week, most of the discussion during my stint guest co-hosting View Point University revolved around scandals and controversies. On more than one occasion, callers referred to my take on the subjects as a repetition of Democratic “talking points”.

KSOO listeners were exposed to some of my decidedly left-wing opinions, but those opinions are mine alone, and informed by following the news as closely as my time permits. I don’t receive talking points each morning in my email inbox. I have no interest in the approved Democratic response to whatever the issue of the day is, and wouldn’t know where to look for it if I did.

One particularly angry caller couldn’t stand what he heard from me, and insisted that whoever made the decision to have me on the show should be fired. Note: every time I have appeared on the show it has been at the invitation of Rick Knobe and/or Dan Peters. Obviously we don’t agree on many political issues, but they believe, as I do, that the audience is better served by having a discussion that includes multiple perspectives.

The inability to accept other people having different ideas and beliefs than one’s own is one of the most deeply disturbing and pernicious elements of the human condition. Our history is positively littered with examples of governments, both religious and secular, suppressing opinions through tactics that range from shunning to torturing people to death. Needing everyone else to believe the same thing you do is a special kind of sin.

That said, while I tend to look for neutral news sources, when it comes to opinion programming, I do gravitate to left leaning operations. I hear and see enough of the right wing stuff just going about my day to day and occasionally moving up and down the dial.

For all the bluster about how “liberal” the media is, right wing bias is rather ubiquitous. AM radio is at least 20 to 1 right wing vs. left leaning talk show hosts. While there is a lot of CNN, which I see as being more centrist and corporate, many establishments have Fox News playing on the television. I have yet to enter a hotel lobby, doctor’s office, or truck stop restroom showing MSNBC.

What weird psychological happening causes humans to seek out opinions that are likely to reaffirm what we already believe? I suspect some of it stems from wanting to be told that we are correct, or smart. Also, part of it has to be the natural desire most people have to avoid conflict. Arguments work us up emotionally, and many people don’t enjoy the feelings that arise, especially if they get flustered and can’t articulate their case.

I like a good argument even more than the next guy, but when I do end up watching/listening to a rightwing nut job, I catch myself debating the airwaves. It frustrates me when they cherry pick only what they want from the evidence and gloss over everything that casts doubt on their claims. Not being able to interact with them and call them out on their rubbish, a few minutes of that is all that I can take.

That is the good thing about local talk radio, it is easy to get through on the phone lines. If you don’t like what you hear, from me or from whoever, just call in and argue your point. You might not win, but you and everyone listening will get more out of it than they would from an ideological echo chamber.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Gossom and do not reflect Results Radio, Townsquare Media, its sponsors or subsidiaries.

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